Passing or serve reception is one of the basic volleyball skills. But let’s face it, who doesn’t struggle with serve reception? Personally, I fought with passing for many years. But the vast majority of us can receive the serve better. And that’s why in today’s video I’m going to show you four practical and crucial tips to improve your serve reception.


Passing in volleyball

Passing or serve reception is one of the hard core volleyball skills, and anyone who says it isn’t, just don’t believe them. If we were playing volleyball fifty years ago, we wouldn’t have such problems with serve reception with our current knowledge and training methods. The serve has changed a lot in the last few decades.

Today it is the first and aggressive attack of the opponent. We no longer have balls flying at us from 20 meters away where we had time to stand behind the ball and pass it. Instead, we’re getting hard jump server or floating serves flying a few inches over the net at around seventy kilometers per hour that are not easy to receive. We can no longer count on passing all serves beautifully in the body axis as in the past, on getting behind the ball and having the ball in front of us on every reception.

Most receptions due to serves quality are already off the body axis. Sure, we still have to have quick feet and try to get to the ball, but most of the time we will have to pass off the body axis. Of course we still have to play all receptions in front of us, once the ball runs behind our body we can’t count on a quality reception. To play all receptions in front of the body, we can stand in front of the wall, the wall is just behind us. And now a teammate starts throwing us balls initially, we try to play them right to him. After a couple of balls, he starts lobbing balls to us, we’re still trying to receive it.

The wall won’t let us play the ball behind our body in this case. But you can see it yourself from your experience that in practice or in a match, receiving serves behind the body just doesn’t work.

Also our position when receiving should be in a low position, feet apart, we can’t move quickly on outstretched legs and none of the great receivers stand on outstretched legs when receiving. I could describe dozens of other things to do when passing, but I want to focus more on our hands and forearm pass or bump pass in this video.

Big platform

Whether it’s an on-axis or off-axis reception, we need to have as much control of the ball as possible. To control its bounce and just to have as much control as possible, we need to touch the ball with as much surface area on our hands as possible if we’re talking about a forearm reception. Some of us have our elbows and shoulders well stretched and our elbows are touching when passing.

I think that’s the ideal condition and a prerequisite for a good reception, if you have your arms outstretched when you receive, elbows touching, you are creating the maximum platform for a successful reception because you are touching the ball with a large surface area.

But many of you don’t bring your hands fully together, so we need to work on that and stretch our arms. A good exercise to increase mobility in the elbows and shoulders is this exercise. We are on the ground, hands on the ground, fingers pointing towards the body. Our arms are extended and we try to get our elbows as close together as possible. If you do this exercise regularly, you will see that your range of motion in your elbows and also your platform will increase. Also, this exercise is great for stretching your wrists, which we need to keep mobile for our attacks, for example.

Shoulder mobility and angles

But a big platform alone won’t be enough for us to receive a serve. Imagine that a hard serve is coming at you, you may have your hands ideally joined in a big platform, but the serve is flying off the axis of your body and your bump, your platform is pointing upwards at the moment the ball touches your hands.
You can’t expect a good reception, the ball will probably only bounce up above you, it won’t be heading towards the net to the setter. Because in order to pass the ball to the net our platform must also be pointing in the direction we want to pass the ball.

So we need to work on the angles of when and where we pass the ball. We need to increase the mobility of our shoulders so that even in a difficult situation, when we can no longer react with our legs, we rotate our torso and shoulders so that our platform is pointing to where we want to play the ball.

A great exercise that will help and can be done in warm-ups is to connect hands into forearm pass position, create a platform, and then perform the movement with your hands in front of your body, kind of movement of the figure eight with your hands. When doing the exercise, make sure that your hands, your platform is always facing forward to where you want to play the ball. You cannot move your hands so that your platform is angled up or into the ground.

The second exercise that I personally often do is playing the ball against a wall with the goal of always playing the ball off the body axis. Stand close to wall, take no steps, and then try to play the ball into the wall relatively low with more sideways impact to create pressure on yourself so you have little time to play the ball. Keep your arms extended and elbows together during the exercise.

The third exercise, you need the help of a teammate, is that we are on the ground, on our knees. A teammate throw the ball to us or hits us, and we try to pass the ball with the goal that it bounces in front of us to a teammate. This is an imitation of a reception where we take our feet completely out of the way and only our torso, arms and shoulders are working to create enough angles to properly bounce the ball.

Hold the platform

In my opinion, one of the most essential pieces of advice that will help you improve your reception is to hold the platform even after the ball is played. Again, if we are passing and a hard serve is coming at us, it doesn’t matter if it is jump or float serve, many players receive the ball with their hands coming apart due to the speed of the serve and the subsequent reception is not accurate.

Therefore, keep in mind that your hands must not disconnect at the moment of touching the ball on the receive, but in addition, you should keep them connected after the ball is played. If you hold the platform even after playing the ball, you will see for yourself where your platform was pointing, if you had a good angle for the reception.

But what I think is more important is that you also kept the energy that you gave to the ball in the direction you wanted to play and if you played the ball with the large area of your forearms, it should always bounce where your platform is pointing. And that’s just the situation for a predictable bounce of the ball. It’s all about physics. Just like when you throw a ball against a wall, it always bounces to the same spot. And that’s exactly what we want when receiving, so that the ball bounces off our hands the same way all the time, so that it doesn’t go left one time and right the next.

Keep your eyes on the ball

The fourth piece of advice I want to mention today is to keep your eye on the ball. If you’re on the receiving end, you can’t be interested in anything but the ball. From the time the serving player carries the ball in his hand for upcoming serve, you should not take your eyes off the ball.

Of course, the blocking players of the opponent team will want to make it difficult for you to receive, and they often build a wall at the net so that you almost cannot see the ball. However, you should always try to find a place where you can see the ball at all times. This is important not only for the reception itself, but you also need to see how the player will serve, you can already tell from the movement of the serving player’s hand whether it will be a hard serve or a short serve. It is also important to keep an eye on the ball when it is with you and you are playing it, keep looking at the ball. Even just before the reception. You’ll then see what the ball is doing, if a floating serve has risen higher or if a jump serve is falling quickly to the ground. And if you watch the ball constantly, you can adjust your bump and platform to the last moment.

The same is true after receiving, keep watching the ball. Watch where it bounces off your platform. Don’t count on all your receptions coming out and being perfect, but just by watching the ball constantly you learn from every reception. You will see and remember if the ball landed on only one hand, if you let the ball come too close to your body, if you should have put more power into it so it bounced to the net. Just learn from every touch.

Sure, it doesn’t take a week to learn how to receive well, it takes months or years. Again the most important thing is good technique, you also need a big platform, a wide range of motion in your shoulders and torso to handle serves off your body axis. You need to hold the platform after the reception and you can’t do that without constantly tracking the ball either.

I hope my advice helps you become a better player